Open Thread – May – 2013

Open Thread – May – 2013

Could Body Armor Have Saved Millions in World War I?
The follies that led to poor helmets and a lack of torso protection for men in the trenches.
APR 30 2013

Steel fragments do not come at the soldier like rifle or machine gun bullets, at high velocity (up to 3000 feet per second). Nearly all of them move at less than 1,000 feet per second. The best helmet steel could and did defeat these. But helmets only protected the head — and Allied helmets covered the head poorly.

Still, 18 to 20-gauge helmet steel (.036-.040 inches) could stop a hot cupro-nickel jacketed 230 grain slug from a .45 Automatic Colt Pistol (ACP) fired pointblank. So alloys like silicon nickel or nickel-manganese-vanadium could protect against almost all fragments. With such steels already in high production for helmets, why not protect the torso too?

What If We Never Run Out of Oil?
New technology and a little-known energy source suggest that fossil fuels may not be finite. This would be a miracle—and a nightmare.
APR 24 2013

Johnny Rico, combat photographer:

205 Replies to “Open Thread – May – 2013”

  1. i bet i’m the only one here actually being paid to study methane hydrates, and i think that chris mann atlantic piece is crap. besides, why wasn’t i interviewed?

  2. From a development standpoint probably, but I’ve had to deal with flow assurance worries. Thats been awile.

  3. JR completely blew it! He had about a 5-second window to briefly introduce himself and ask her out for a date. Something like: “Hi, I’m knows as Johnny Rico, but of course that’s not my real name. So, what are you doing later today, after work?”

    Learn those lines well, JR, just in case there is a next time.

  4. Oops, i thought you meant Erin Burnett, Bif. JR never had a chance with her, as she was concentrating on make up. The other one does look and smile at 0:07-0:09, but no chance there, either. Logistics.

  5. i hate agreeing with JHK, but i have to admit he’s got the japanese’s number on offshore methane hydrates. hope the koreans do a better job.

  6. Methane hydrates have been a kind of holy grail for a long time. Many have tried.

    I envision super-giant robot crawlers on the sea floor, like big mechanical armadillos, rooting through the sediment and ingesting hydrates. Like hungry pigs, but very Japanese-style sci fi mecs. They could be connected by risers to a floating control, production and compressor facility above, which in turn would offload to CNG or LNG shuttle tankers. Perhaps there could be heating elements inside the robots so as to gasify the hydrate and direct it up the riser, and then they could piss out the water. The robots could have spot lights for eyes in the murky depths. That would be cool.

  7. do you realize that you have, perhaps inadvertently, explained a long-held mystery as to what was the exact power source that allowed Godzilla to spray fire from his mouth? long held by many as simply the result of acid indigestion (e.g., too much wasabi on his sushi), you have actually found the power source as melting seafloor methane hydrates. congratulations, Bif.

  8. Don’t think Godzilla would tolerate robots on the sea floor eating his power source.

  9. i see a new movie plot line developing ala Tremors. Godzilla takes revenge upon the subsea methane mining robots, who dare to eat his source of “mana”. Godzilla fights the robots to their death upon the seafloor (close fight, with lots of cool special effects) and then follows the retreating mining ships back to Tokyo whereupon he wreks the usual havoc.

    New twist: Godzilla kicks over all the above-ground nuclear waste storage tanks at Fukushima, causing a giant nuclear waste spill. a vast swarm of mutant flying wombats rise from the sea and attack Kim Jong Un in his sleep up in north korea. dazed and confused, he thinks it’s the americans attacking and lauches his entire nuclear missle inventory across the wide Pacific. the end.

  10. Officially they say Godzilla was a cross between a gorilla and a whale. I never understood how that could happen, or why he looked like neither of those. His mother must have lied about who the father was. Back in those days it was considered shameful to sleep with reptiles. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jim Morrison (aka the Lizzard King) was the “back door man” and father to Godzilla. Or visa versa..

  11. i swear, anyone involved in the nuclear industry anywhere should be forced to read Dr. Suess’ “The Cat in the Hat”. then, they must take and pass a test which determines whether they understand the underlying implications of this “simple children’s story”.

  12. true story in current events: a female graduate student in ocean engineering came by the lab to borrow a thermometer, as her fancy IR sensor’s readings were jumping all over. so i asked her about her experiment. she’s trying to acurately measure the temperature of some body of water.

    so then i said, “oh, like Carnot”. she says “who’s Carnot?” i said he famously determined the second law of thermodynamics with simple thermometers in a body of water. she says, “oh”, as if she’s not too sure what this second law business is all about. i’m surrounded by morons.

  13. From America2.0: We might not go extinct

    “I think we need to separate the end of civilized human life from human extinction. While I can see some “rough patches” ahead for modern human civilization, the Highland tribes of Papua New Guinea should do as good as possible, being isolated near the equator and at elevation, and pretty much self-sufficient up there. Even if all others go die off, they could possibly carry on in a degraded Earth, later to expand outwards if conditions improve. They’ve had about two major human expansions from that part of the world already.

    Also, we need to carefully evaluate what evidence Guy McPherson is using to make the claim of human die off/mass extinction by 2030 or so. First, he uses the scientific evidence for about 12 known positive feedbacks that have been tripped since about 2010, only one of which can be reversed by human choice (Arctic drilling, I think). If he is correct that even a rapid collapse of modern civilization will not stop those feedbacks from operating, civilized human life may be over, it’s just a matter of when.

    The other critical evidence that he cites is a BP review that projects a 4 degree C rise by about 2030. An early IPCC report suggested increasing 1 degree C above historical global mean temperature could lead to non-linear effects on climate as positive feedbacks are tripped. We are at or past that now. The evidence is in the news.

    The question is on what assumptions was the 4-degree BP forecast based. If it was based upon continued or greater energy use to 2030, then a rapid collapse could affect their forecast. In that case, temperatures high enough to cause a near-term extinction might be avoided or at least postponed. However, it’s still not looking good for civilized human life.”

  14. i have no problem with nte.

    no matter what happens, we’re all just along for the ride anyways. i guess.

  15. loved the civilisation video link, dave. a highlight for me was some stone monument built in about 800 AD that tried to look like the roman originals. it looked like the project was conducted by drunk roman third graders. even today, we can only reproduce these master works with abundant cheap energy thrown at the project, and cutting corners to boot. a lot was lost after the fall of the western empire.

  16. i’m thinking of proposing a national triage committee. for it to function, it would need to have executive authority and a modest budget, like FEMA. one of the purposes is to shut down nuclear power facilities, both government and private, before a collapse. details like moving spent fuel off site and long-term cooling of reactor cores would be discussed and mapped out. cover stories could be protection from natural disasters or terrorist/enemy attacks.

    if enough government heads see that climate change could produce destabilizing effects on society, they could be convinced that triage is important, so the country doesn’t become like Fukushima all over the place. all of those power plants were built with an underlying assumption of societal stability that may prove false. only the real hazardous ones, like the Idaho national reactor facility, were located well enough away in case of a disaster at the plant.

  17. I think we should stick with benevolent alien intervention, which is our de facto solution. Isn’t it?

  18. Uncle, I was just trying to save a little farmland.

    I know, expecting our government to do something logical, for the common good, is a pretty dumbass assumption.

  19. Jeebus Doom. Government doing shit for the “common good” is a big part of the fucking mess to begin with. Government is not now nor has it ever been the solution to anything.

  20. short lived occupation: selling life insurance policies to those rally speed bikers.

    maybe that’s why those spanish kids can’t keep a job?

  21. to c. baker: honestly, who gives a shit? the sooner (or later, makes no difference) the humans, or all of life for that matter, die off, the better.

    stupid hoore.

  22. i’m guessing the jellyfish are gonna make it. them, and maybe the saltwater crocks. those crocks made it through the K-T Boundary bolide impact, and in fact grew larger for awhile eating all the dead dinosaurs washing downstream. maybe the next intelligent life will be crocko sapiens.

    captain kirk fought one on star trek, long ago. forgot who won.

  23. My sister is coming to visit with my niece and her new baby. I hear she’s 2 months old, more or less, and they’ve used 600 diapers already. These are the disposable kind. Not like the kind you and I wore with cloth and pins (ouch!). Baby stays clean, diaper goes in the ground. Everybody happy. Anyway, got clean up a bit. Sister says the kitchen here smells bad. I don’t know why that is. Just a little smell of broccoli, burnt eggs, farts, and stuff.

  24. I have a pair of bluebirds nesting in a birdhouse in the yard. The female is sitting on 5 eggs. They are due to hatch any day. When the chicks hatch the female will take out of the nest all debris from the hatching and then will continue to carry all the baby bird turds out and far away from the nest with her beak. Now, that’s a mother for you.

  25. they don’t like to ‘shit in their nest’ and mom knows the little turds are like beacons for cats. smart mommy.

    found a dead bird in back the other day, mostly in tact. thought it died of some disease, then i remembered…we have a cat.


    “The aim is to reduce the state’s wolf population, estimated at 625, by giving more leeway to hunters and trappers, wildlife officials said”

    “Our overall goal is to get wolves in balance with the rest of the critters on the landscape as well as landowner tolerance,” said agency spokesman Ron Aasheim.”

    1,005,141 people in Montana to 623 wolves. That overpopulation of wolves has got to stop.

    terms: landowner tolerance = rancher tolerance

  27. how many fucking cows in mt? that’s the real question. well, it’s a question.
    or sheep? that’s another fucking question.

  28. i think that defective human babies, like if they’re fucking retarded or crippled, or some such shit, should be thrown out to the wolves, along with a couple of sheep. win/win, more wolves/less retards. the vast majority of people are fucking retarded, i’d say.

  29. my only real hope in life is that i live to see large scale (whatever that is) human dieoff. no bullshit. that’s what keeps me going.

  30. most sharks, when biting a human, spit it out or just take one gulp. they’re usually expecting a nice, plump, fat-covered seal. instead, they get a bony, tough, neoprine-covered human. now, some humans could qualify as near seal quality, but they’re rarely if ever swimming out in the surf, imitating seals.

    unfortunately for the humans, one bite from a good-sized shark is usually fatal.

    also, some sharks are so starved and hungry that they’ll settle for a human and eat the whole thing.

  31. careful what you wish for, dave. i have to admit, the first few weeks to months after the rest of the world no longer honors the dollar as exchange currency should be interesting.

    sorta like the 1973 arab oil embargo on steroids.

  32. back in 1973, as a graduate student here, i had just sold my 10-speed bike and bought a 1970 BMW 2002. fortunately, the new house i moved into was up a steep ridge, so i could coast the car downhill in neutral, just using the brakes, to get to a station to line up for my $2 ration of gas.

    was i a genius, or what?

  33. yeah fuck irony. speaking of which, a prime motivation for ditching the bike and getting a car was date bait. hard to take a girl on a date with a 10-speed. not impossible, just hard. so, then a string of girls appears in my life, and my willy gets waxed. does the car bring them to me? no. do they even care about the car? hell no. i might as well have been driving an old rusty vw bug or fiat or some such shit. my biggest rival at the time in fact drove a piece-of-shit vw bug he used as a surf-mobile (with racks, of course).

  34. @JR,

    i just watched some erin burnett live on CNN. you did the right thing keeping quiet and willy in your pants. she’s not for you. she’s moron the anderson cooper type, but i heard he’s gay. there’s that irony again.

  35. i called my father a hypocrite once. if he hadn’t been occupied driving the car on the freeway (out on old route 66), i wouldn’t likely be typing this comment right now.

    i only called him that once. he didn’t speak to me directly for about 3 days.

  36. Yeah, and monkeys will throw shit at you from the tree – sloths do down to the ground to crap.

  37. i miss those giant ground sloths they had in north america back until the the big chimps arrived and killed them all. killin bastards.

  38. hey, they’re trying to tell us the second boston bomber “suspect” left a confession note on the boat he wuz hiding in. yeah sure, pull the other leg now.

    anyone want to bet he’ll never be filmed or interviewed live by the media? they’ll probably say he permanently lost his voice.

    reality mimics “The Planet of the Apes”.

  39. i had a sloth of my own once, for a short time. it had mold of sorts growing on its’ fur and was infested with all kinds of bugs a such. i put him(?, never checked) back in the jungle in short order.

  40. Where was that Dave?

    I used to see them occasionally in Venezuela and Colombia, up in the trees of course. They don’t put on much of a show. Once I came across one crawling in a parking lot. I kicked him (gently) over to the ditch so he wouldn’t get run over. I think it was a three-toed sloth.

  41. i realize it’s art, and it’s subjective, but that represents a lot of work, and it’s crap. too many obvious rip-offs like the stone’s logo. she’s technically competent, but not very original. she’s best taking orders from a real designer.

    reminds me of the crap that passed for neuvo art back in the mid 1960s-early 1970s period. everybody was into ripping off the Love album cover art.

    i hope that’s not one of your relatives, Bif.

  42. Yes the video part is probably crap. I was going for the music. I have no idea who the video person is. I don’t watch the videos much. Except Siouxie Sioux close-ups.

  43. Bad art. Its post-collapse Iceland. Try to be understanding.

    Anyway, there are no central themes or standards here, at ZK, that I know of. I pretty much hate pre-1990 music with a few exceptions. Its mostly garbage. Actually I hate most music older than 2011.

    And oil production peaked several years ago. That topic is all so 2005, or 2008 or 2011. Its details. Peak oil is over. It happened. Its time to move on. Apple wristwaches are the next thing.

    I replaced the vid with a different Ms. John Soda song. Ehhh.

  44. well, that’s a broad brush you’re applying to music. i hope you realize that you’re throwing the likes of billy holiday and ellla fitzgerld out with that old bathwater. also, the tech has improved over time. can you imagine what those two would sound like with today’s recording tech?

    i noted the vid swap. good call.

  45. patty page died recently. ZK should be honored to have perhaps one of the only music critics who was alive in the 1950s and knew patty was kinda second-rate and over-hyped. can’t help but think her being white and mainstream helped her career back then–politics. of couse, both my parents adored her, so i kept kinda quiet about my personal music preferences.

    we all liked dino. great show.

  46. I went thru a Smashing Pumpkins & Queens of the Stone Age phase. I was in the hospital with a morphine drip at the time.

  47. 1950’s. Hmmm. Hank Williams, Sr. Ferlin Husky, Les Paul & Mary Ford, Conway Twitty, Patsy Cline and Elvis.

  48. Does “Zappa Plays Zappa” count? Dweezil is taking the “Roxy & Elsewhere” 40th anniversary on the road.

  49. I could listen to Tiny Tim all day long with a morphine drip, I rekon. Haven’t ever had one. Yet. Christ.

  50. No one should give a fuck but I wasn’t disrespecting music as far back as the stone age. Hell I’ve listened to George Jones. So I know. You don’t have to tell me.

  51. this is a nice video of PC. she’s best heard on a jukebox in a lonely bar late at night after several drinks have been consumed. smoking and women optional.

  52. Bif, I worked for several months building a school (electrical) on the Navajo rez (the part that is in New Mexico) way back in the day. We had two choices on the radio – country or native Navajo. I don’t habla Navajo.

  53. completely agree, 4×4. i was thinking what a shame the sound track is so shitty. maybe someone could use modern tech to fix it.

    every notice how PC looks very different in various clothes/make up? it’s not just aging, i think.

  54. UR I worked on Standing Rock (Fort Yates) for two years in the early 1980s. Actually I commuted there from from Mandan. Bismarck was OK but in those days I did my R&R down in Aberdeen SD because there was a fine woman there.She worked in a diner. All paths lead back to George Jones.

    I learned a little about bead work in Ft Yates. I learned lazy stich. Also an intro to quill work.

  55. loved watching that old disney propaganda clip, dave. i guess walt did it as a favor to the feds in lieu of….? perhaps an IRS break or two.

    i guess the target audiences were troops and civilian moviegoers.

  56. yeah, never been a disney fan, at all.

    another industrial icon that i’ve always hated, even as a child, wizard of oz. i remember my mother saying something like, “oh, come on, time to watch this shit.” and me saying something like: “yeah, fuck off.” or something along those lines.

  57. The warranty? Its lennex they last for ever. Just look at the guy in the commercials the equipment has changed over time but he as not aged a bit nor has his bowler hat

  58. an interesting way of looking at the problem:

    Paul Chefurka Says:
    May 22nd, 2013 at 4:45 am
    Bombing the Biosphere

    A one megaton hydrogen bomb releases about 4,200 terajoules of energy.

    Last year human beings released over 550 exajoules of energy.

    This means that last year we unleashed the equivalent of 132,000 megatons of hydrogen bombs over the surface of the planet.

    That’s one Hiroshima bomb every five seconds.

    Since the end of World War II we have released the equivalent of 5 million one-megaton bombs on the planet.

    The world’s entire nuclear arsenal today is estimated at “only” 5 thousand megatons.

    Is it any wonder that the biosphere is looking a little battered?
    Is it any wonder that I’m far more worried about driving cars than I am about nuclear war?

  59. I’m not so sure he did doomphd. Oh he uses the word mind you, he most certainly uses the word.

  60. maybe he’s just being careful, uncle. so sense getting sent to gitmo, or having a drone “accident”, over some little “misunderstanding”.

  61. no sense….

    hey, has anyone found the logic error in Paul Chefurka’s argument, above? hint: he missed some big energy terms that render his argument moot.

  62. close, he missed the “big picture” as in solar irradiance. missed forest for trees, etc. what a maroon. we call them “math morons”.

  63. Humans (per PC above) = >550 exajoules = >5.50 x 10^20 joules

    Incoming solar = 1 – 35 x 10^6 joules/m^2

    Area of Earth = 5 x 10^14 m^2

    Solar Irradiance = 5 -135 x 10^20 joules

    so low (cloudy) = 5 x 10^20 joules (same as humans per PC)
    high (clear skies) = 1.35 x 10^22 joules (50X higher than humans)

    typical yearly cloud fraction = 0.49 (average)

    therefore, solar irradiance is about 25X higher than human releases. Q.E.D.

  64. correction: solar high = 1.75 x 10^22 joules. Of course, there are corrections for the polar incidence, albido effects, etc.

  65. actually, the numbers calculated above are at least about a factor of 200 too low, to get everything on an equal annual basis, so Chefurka is off by a factor of about 100 to 1000X. that’s getting serious for geologists, even.

    we got a ways to go to match the sun.

  66. i don’t understand how solar irradiance enters into chefurka’s argument, if it is an argument. he’s comparing human energy consumption, primarily in the from of burning fossil fuels, i guess, with the potential energy release from the current nuclear weapon stockpile. i guess.

    how does solar irradiance figure in? it’s not like human’s released it.

  67. I see it as simply suggesting to the suggestible reader that human energy use = nuclear weapons; ergo bad.

    And dave has a point.

  68. dave, it’s my comparison, not his. i did it because he makes it sound like we’re all gonna burn in our own hell of waste heat. maybe i mistook his intentions, maybe he uses the nuke comparisons like remus suggests.

    remus, a good question. i suspect solar electricity is in the mix, but at a small percentage. we’re primarily burning fossil sunlight converted by photosynthesis to hydrocarbons and then buried, cooked, preserved, migrated, trapped, stored and eventually extracted. amazingly inefficient, but a lot was made over a long time, and it’s concentrated.

  69. there is indeed some abiotic methane (CH4) gas coming out of volcanoes. we can tell this by the carbon stable isotope signature of the captured methane. the amount is comparatively small, however. most carbon is recycled through the biosphere.

  70. i think his point is that our normal day-to-day activities, as an industrial civilization are more destructive (132,000 megatons/yr) than if we set off all our nuclear weapons all at once (5000 megatons total).

    132,000/ yr = something like 360 mt/day. plus, like the sun’s radiance, the release is diffused over a large area. we think it’s all “normal”, or something like that.

  71. Paul Chefurka should make the ultimate sacrifice for the environment.

    human energy waste heat is both diffuse, as you say, and not in the same league as incoming solar (also diffuse), which was supposed to be my point. the guy i’m aiming at is actually David(?) Murphy, the physics professor at UCSD that thinks if we power up (say, with fusion nuclear) we’ll bake in our own oven here on planet Earth. maybe so, but that moment is a ways off, unless you count the greenhouse gases effect, obviously.

    silly humans pursued fossil fuel profits too long. now we all gonna die.

  72. yeah, chefurka is not talking about the effects of waste heat, from any source. he’s talking about the ability of energy to perform work, or destruction, depending on how you want to look at it, i guess.

    as far as boiling in our own waste heat, if human energy production, from any source, were to continue to grow by 2%, our waste heat production would double about every 35 years. before too long, yes, we would boil the planet. for a lot of reasons, humans will never pull that off. i’d say.

  73. stop scaring me with that Al Bartlett doubling time shit. agree that humans won’t have to worry about doubling their present waste heat. we look to be going the other way, soon too, once the oil and north american natural gas depletion start to bite hard.

    what’s driving me batty is knowing it’s coming soon, but it’s so slowly developing that it looks like everything is just fine. i think once a major industrial country tanks, like say, Japan, it will really shake up the other ones. i don’t think TPTB/elites will be able to paper over that, so expect mass protests, riots, etc. ala Greece. perhaps entertaining, at least.

  74. Depends on the dose, I’ve had about 50g of ethanol tonight – think I’d be dead with 50,000mg of Vicodin.

  75. hey, would anyone here like to invest in a hot (not to be confused with cold) fusion nuclear prototype development? the guy i know needs about $150,000 to set up something on the cheap; $1.5 M to make a nicer version in a lab with various bells and whistles like a gamma ray/neutron counting system. you could literally get in on the ground floor. he has a patent and a company and is willing to share equity in exchange for monetary support.

    if successful, we humans get to kick the can down the road a bit longer. even my dumb banker seemed interested, but he was probably just being polite.

  76. UR, probably not. the guy’s lived an incredibly sheltered life. he knows physics, electronics, and is good at patents, but not a whole lot more. he’s trying a lot harder to beat the bushes now that he’s had a patent published for over a year and no one has air dropped money at his doorstep.

  77. None of the streams in Massachusetts where I trout fished as a young boy presently contain trout. They are nutrient choked, and who knows what else. When people tell me the Clean Water Act was a success I say fuck you no it wasn’t.

  78. i’m holding out for the mussolini “el duce” expresso-cappacino maker. it specializes in crushing and brewing ethiopian coffee beans.

  79. Happiness is not having to loan out your chain saw to your brother-in-law because you no longer have a chain saw. Pure, sweet bliss!

  80. GB, i was plenty glad to give mine away. it was a lime green Poulan. it scared me and the wife. i’d rather chop or saw trees the old fashioned way, although more physcal labor.

    i have a friend who nearly lost his arm clearing a fallen tree from a road. he can still use his arm, luckily for him, but it could just as easily have ended with shock and loss of blood. a neighbor took him to the ER.

  81. one of my favs: “Don’t worry about me, dad. I’m alone in another city with writing on my tits that asks strangers to give me drugs.”

  82. runner up: “Hitting 30 or having a kid may not be the end of caring how you look but it’s definitely last call for expensive sneakers, silkscreened tees, and kooky frames. Oh yeah, it’s also the end of cocaine, bumming pot, staying out ’til four, fucking 20 year-olds, wearing condoms, fighting, hating your dad, hair dye, new tattoos, and going to see bands you’ve never heard of.”

  83. to GB: do you agree?

    “we are in the process of adding another 2500 sq ft to the garden starting next year… clearing and fencing now. even being vegan… it is a daunting proposal to try to be ‘zero food’ with 4000 sq ft in cultivation… plus an orchard of around 20 fruit and nut trees.

    add to that we also have 2500 sq ft growing white clover to compost with the local biomass (pine needles) to grow our fertility. i can grow a mean garden, but hauling in organic amendments from afar is in no way sustainable.


  84. You mean, can “todd” can grow all his own food? I don’t know, sort of doubtful, but not really important Its more about the pursuit…the challenge for him. Personally, I prefer to be able to trade with others for different kinds of food.

  85. seems like you have to, as it’s so easy to have surpluses at times. we don’t try very hard (right now) and we always have too much, of avocados, bananas, citrus. that’s because they all get ripe at once, more or less. we give to the neighbors, but rarely get anything back. this sucks, but i have not tried to clue them, as it would just scare them and i don’t think we could provide enough food for everyone, even if we tried.

    we have retired dentist family (dentist died of stroke recently), a lawyer, a medical doctor, and an investment banker as close neighbors. as a professor, we are the “gypsy family” of this bunch.

  86. history and reason for our present predicament nicely summarized:

    “Early Bronze Age Europe can provide some context I think. At this time, about 2,000BC, populations were spread thin across the arable landscape which, because of the climate, required little or no irrigation. Population centers were comprised of families or extended families of about 20-60 people with in rare instances as many as 100. A small series of squat wooden buildings sat at the center with the fields of wheat’s, millet’s and such surrounding them at no more than a day’s walk to and from. Basic animal husbandry was also practiced with its attendant fields and costs. This was classic subsistence agriculture with little or no surplus. Folks had the option of creating surplus but eschewed the extra work and toil involved in favor of free time and lifestyle. Consequently trade (which is based on surplus) was at a minimum. Bronze working, pottery, and tool making was kept “in house”, various “specialists” taking on these jobs in their spare time and for the immediate benefit of the small community alone. Anthropologists concur that while life was hard it was at least, enjoyable.

    It is interesting to note that this basic lifestyle remained in place for thousands of years, even during those eras where first Greek, and then Roman advanced trading cultures rose and fell across parts of Europe. Larger European trading and manufacturing centers of up to 2,000 people would develop, but then fall back to the time tested rural lifestyle of the ancients once the commercial “fads” came and went. Europe remained this way right up until the early Dark Ages of about 300-500AD. Many people who study these things suggest that it was the steady rise in population that occurred as a result of agricultural technology that forced communities to adopt the urban structures – supported by surplus – we all know and love today. Fields once tilled with wooden sticks progressed to Iron Age metal fitted plows, increasing yields and with them surplus, trade, and population. More than anything else it was the advance of agricultural technology that powered the rise of urbanism.

    The lesson is clear I think – “surplus” changes everything. If you can live without deliberately creating surplus, as those Bronze Age Europeans did for so long, you can have a fairly sustainable community as long as you can accept lower populations. Which of course, you can’t. There are 7 billion people today and there is clearly no going back. But just as importantly it seems clear that once people can use technology to create a surplus they will, and that surplus breeds trade and commerce with all its attendant evils. This is the story of every early human society – the reordering of humans to best employ technology to create surplus. Then humans fight over how to distribute that surplus. Bronze Age Europe also suggests that defense was not a major concern of these early people as there was no portable wealth to be stolen. It was only once surpluses began to arise that raiding began to require hilltop settlements surrounded by defensive works. Prior to the age of surplus, no such urban structures seemed necessary. Once surplus, trade, and commerce arose fortified villages of concentrated people did as well.

    Our planet today needs technology to produce the yields necessary to adequately feed the billions. But with that technology comes surplus and onerous decisions about how to distribute the goodies. The two are linked and appear inseparable. I don’t think low tech sustainable agriculture is practical or desirable in order to avoid the ills of surplus as those hardy Bronze Age Europeans had designed it. I think better decision making about the surpluses technology provides is where the answer lies. So much valuable surplus is siphoned off for other uses – and has been since surplus first developed – that real social ills have dogged humanity since. We just can’t help using an iron tipped plough to gain a few more bushels of millet that we trade for bronze earrings that the guy next door just has to have in any way he can. It really is the story of civilization.”

    Matthew Ward

  87. in other words, quit misabusing surplus to gas up SUVs and fund space exploration, and feed your fellow humans. it’s what the buddha would do.

  88. We don’t have a over abundance of bananas. No one makes money off them in the larger markets. We sell them for 79 cents a pound we buy them for 1.10 and the distributors buy them for about 1.15. The problem is the fact the cavana banana is dieing off. Some sort of blight which started in South East Asia. This happen back in the early 50s too. Killed off all the commercial banana trees so we humans cloned one tree and one tree only. Go figure 60 years later that tree is dieing.

    I was at Costco today. Every thing but the TP I bought was organic, weird side note but true. They are now selling home solar panel set ups. They are not lennix brand. They did not look as if they would stand up to Colorado hail stones. Sadly there never was a rep there to ask questions of.

  89. pain killers are hardest on your stomach lining. It eats it away. If you take them everyday your body has no time to recover and rebuild the damaged lining. Also the whole bayer aspirin conundrum. Aspirin lowers your blood pressure with a quick spike. Which is why it is often given heart attack victims at the time of an attack. The bad part is now the average doctor puts these people on aspirin everyday thus lowering your blood pressure everyday. Good bye sex life. Good by exercise. Good bye lifting your fork. Your blood is no longer thick enough to hold your body up or even transport the basic needs of your entire body. Not getting enough quality blood to your brain could also have an effect on degenerative brain problems. Modern medicine joyful and nice. Better living through chemistry.

  90. roach, you bring up some important (impotent?) points re: aspirin. however, the low-dose regimen (81 mg/day) sure beats a massive heart attack or stroke. either one can be a lifestyle changer, especially if you don’t survive the initial attack.

    we grow so-called “apple” bananas here in the islands, which are actually a chinese finger banana. they are very popular here, but there are also quite a few other types, like cooking bananas, red bananas, etc. and the stores are usually full of the cheaper central american bananas, which I guess you are referring to. what i notice moron is the stores completely run out of items, like bananas or papayas. this used to almost never happen.

  91. Bif, that’s not their original intention. they evolved to do a number of things, like hunt mammoths and wooly rhinos until they went extinct. humans are too successful, in my opinion. we suffer the traits of an overly successful predator. we need more planet(s) or we are gonna go the same way as the Cretacous ammonites. they filled all the niches except the air and dry land, then poof, they were gone.

  92. Hey doom do you still have my email? I kind of done something really crazy toxic like and was wonder if you would like to look into a bit. It is not something ready to pop onto the general intertubes as of yet. I used to have yours but can not find it from back in the days JHK’s blog spot address change. Change the comcast to or maybe I can send my email to JR if he is even around to look for it.

  93. How can I make any money in commodities if there aren’t surpluses or shortages? Sheesh.

  94. as always, remus is spot on in the logic department.

    roach, if you want to email relay via JR or Nudge, that would be fine with me. remus and yarra know it, too

    i’d publish it here, but i’ve already said enough for an ocean view suite at gitmo.

  95. here’s some fine doom from George Vye via america2.0 list:

    “There are 7 billion people today and there is clearly no going back.”

    The reindeer on St. Matthew Island probably didn’t think there was any going back, either.

    Read Overshoot.

    Your technology cannot transcend the laws of thermodynamics.

    George Vye

    “We have geared the machines and locked all together into interdependence; we have built the great cities; now there is no escape. We have gathered vast populations incapable of free survival, insulated From the strong earth, each person in himself helpless, on all dependent. The circle is closed, and the net Is being hauled in.”
    ~ From The Purse Seine, Robinson Jeffers, 1937

  96. “There are 7 billion people today and there is clearly no going back.”

    The reindeer on St. Matthew Island probably didn’t think there was any going back, either.

    Read Overshoot.

    Your technology cannot transcend the laws of thermodynamics.

    George Vye

    “We have geared the machines and locked all together into interdependence; we have built the great cities; now there is no escape. We have gathered vast populations incapable of free survival, insulated From the strong earth, each person in himself helpless, on all dependent. The circle is closed, and the net Is being hauled in.”
    ~ From The Purse Seine, Robinson Jeffers, 1937

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